Press Releases

2001 Releases

Study Finds Increased Consumption of Sugar-Sweetened Beverages Promotes Childhood Obesity

For immediate release: February 15, 2001

Boston, MA -- Researchers from Children’s Hospital Boston and the Harvard School of Public Health have conducted the first long-term study to examine soda and sugar-sweetened beverage consumption and its precise impact on children’s body weight. Their findings show that for each additional daily serving of a sugar-sweetened soft drink, the incidence of obesity was significantly increased. The study appears in the February 17 issue of the journal Lancet (

The authors found that over the course of the study, 57 percent of the children increased their daily intake of sugar-sweetened soft drinks and more than half of those by nearly a full serving per day. The researchers also found that the odds of becoming obese increased 1.6 times for each additional can or glass of sugar-sweetened soft drink consumed above the daily average.

According to government and other studies, soft drinks are currently the leading source of added sugars in the daily diet of young Americans. Adolescent women average 36.2 grams of sugar per day from soft drinks and adolescent men average 57.7 grams per day. Between 1989 and 1995 the average daily amount of sugar-sweetened soft drinks consumed by adolescent males rose from 11.7 ounces per day to 19.3 ounces per day. David Ludwig, co-author of the study and Director of the Optimal Weight for Life Program at Children’s Hospital Boston said, "It is not uncommon for teenagers to receive 500 to 1000 calories per day from sugar-sweetened drinks. These drinks may be easy to over-consume, because calories in liquid form seem to be less satiating, or less filling, than calories in solid form."

Steven Gortmaker, co-author of the study and Director of the Prevention Research Center at the Harvard School of Public Health said, "Children are drinking more sugar-sweetened drinks like soda and fruit punch, which help to promote obesity, instead of milk or water, and this poses a real health risk. Childhood obesity can lead to adult obesity and chronic health problems. Families need to be aware of the access their children have to these products both at home and at school and the effects these sugar-sweetened beverages can have on their child's health."

Sugar-sweetened beverages monitored in the study included soda, Hawaiian Punch, lemonade, Koolaid or other sweetened fruit drinks as well as iced tea. The study involved 548 sixth and seventh graders from public schools in four Massachusetts communities over a 21-month span between the fall of 1995 and spring of 1997. The researchers assessed obesity based on body mass index (BMI) and skinfold thickness.

For more information on HSPH obesity research visit

To learn about the Children’s Hospital’s Optimal Weight for Life Program visit

The research was supported by grants from the National Institute on Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, the National Institutes of Child Health and Human Development, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Charles H. Hood Foundation.

For further information, please contact:

Robin Herman
Office of Communications
Harvard School of Public Health
677 Huntington Avenue
Boston, MA 02115
Phone: 617-432-4752

Susan Craig
Children’s Hospital Boston
300 Longwood Avenue
Boston, MA 02115
Phone: (617) 355-8834